Virtual worlds on their way out in educational contexts?

Just had my first of 6 tutorials (over two weeks) on virtual worlds, specifically on using Second Life in the computer labs for DIGC101 (New Media Communication). It’s always really difficult to get this section of the subject up and running, due to the many limitations and constraints of using this type of software in a university-managed computer lab setting. While we have done this program for the past two years, there still seems to be a great deal of difficulty involved when it comes to installing the software and getting around the firewalls and such. Just this morning as well, the “search” function in SL wasn’t functioning, which greatly limited what the students were able to do and explore. Just another problem with the digital classroom, I suppose, but one that also keeps it pretty interesting.

I’m wondering, though, what implications Linden Labs’ new policy of no longer offering discounted prices on land and such to educators will have. Some people have questioned whether SL is on its way out the door, but for the students here it’s still fresh, unique, and one helluva different educational experience compared to those they get in other classrooms. While UOW doesn’t own an island or anything of the sort in SL and thus doesn’t benefit from the discount, we do rely on educational builds created by other universities and colleges. Teaching Second Life is always a highlight for me, and I had hoped to do a lot more work in this area in the future. UOW has, though, revamped their digital communication program to focus more on digital media arts, and the subject which I refer to will not be offered after this year. Any other SL/VW educators out there, I’d love to hear your predictions about what will happen to educational institutions in SL after the price hike.

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